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The Onion on This American Life

The Onion on This American Life published on 1 Comment on The Onion on This American Life

The Onion launches a barrage of zingers at the radio show This American Life. It is a very funny article. All the zingers find their mark as the piece deflates the bombastic, precious excesses of TAL. Here’s my favorite part, a fictional quote from TAL producer Alex Blumberg:

“At first, we were getting a lot of stories from recovered drug addicts and East African refugees living in the States, which had their compelling elements but came off a bit cloying…But then we realized that if we had overeducated people with voices rather unsuitable for radio narrate the stories with clever analogies and accessible morals, the whole thing would come off far less depressing.”

I love TAL because of the stories it tells and the characters it introduces, but I cannot stand how much obvious sweating effort it puts out all the time to come across as wry, insightful and significant. Many of the stories are pretty interesting and/or humorous already; they do not need haunting indie music to play up the affecting moments or repetitive use of Ira Glass’ “Let me get this straight; that was really an ironic moment, wasn’t it?” sort of questions. Beating the listener over the head with the score and format insults the listener’s intelligence. 

I think TAL could benefit from a format more like To The Best of Our Knowledge. TTBOOK has the same structure of a few stories on a theme, but doesn’t explicitly spell out the connections between all the pieces. It prefers instead to show some restraint and let the listener make connections by him/herself.

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